Blog Video: Interview Celtic’s SLO John Paul Taylor

 

Earlier in the week I visited Celtic Park to interview Celtic’s Supporters Liaison Officer John Paul Taylor.

We discuss his role at the club, the safe standing area at the stadium and Celtic’s season under Brendan Rodgers.

Please checkout the rest of our Scottish football content on our YouTube channel.

Diego Costa’s Return To Form Comes At Right Time For Chelsea

Before last night Chelsea striker Diego Costa had gone seven club appearances without recording a single goal.

Then against Southampton the Spanish hitman managed to grab two goals and an assist, a performance that helped his side to an important victory.

That brace helped Costa reach his fiftieth goal for the club and it also took him to nineteen league goals for the season.

During his drought in front of goal, Chelsea lost to both Crystal Palace and Manchester United. Those defeats, along with with a Tottenham Hotspur winning run, saw the gap at the top being reduced to just four points.

It also wasn’t by coincidence that Diego started to pick up more yellow cards again during his lean spell, the forward was clearly under pressure and getting frustrated by his poor form.

People started to wonder if Antonio Conte’s men were going to crack under the pressure. Fans were also wondering if the side relied too much on their top marksman.

But against the Saints you got the feeling that the Chelsea’s squad had got back into the swing of things and that Costa had found his mojo again.

The FA Cup win over Spurs last weekend will have obviously helped spike up team morale but Costa’s goal return seems the tonic everyone at Stamford Bridge was looking for.

The club will now believe that the title challenge is back on track and that their striker is the man to get them over the line.

Blues boss Conte stated after the Southampton triumph that he had always believed in his number one striker:

“It’s important for forwards to score because the goal is your life,” 

“I always told him I was pleased with his commitment and work and he always worked for the team. I was always confident for him. I told you I am sure he is keeping his goals for the final part of the season.”

It helps that Diego had Cesc Fabregas playing behind him again, the duo have a terrific understanding and Cesc seems to just know the perfect time to release the ball to Costa in front of goal. Plus having a world class talent in Eden Hazard playing alongside you takes away some of that pressure.

Now whether Diego Costa stays or leaves Chelsea in the summer doesn’t really matter at this stage of the season. What matters for the fans is that he’s back with the bit between his teeth again and they can now head for the final straight with a goalscorer back amongst the goals!

So Costa has to forget any contract offers and speculation surrounding his future. All he needs to do is keep banging the goals in and lift a trophy or two come May.

Halliday’s Old Firm Tackle Has No Bearing On Scott Brown’s Appeal

People are still discussing Andy Halliday’s challenge on Patrick Roberts from last weekend’s Old Firm semi-final clash at Hampden.

The tackle was late and reckless but the Rangers midfielder only received a booking. Even diehard Gers fans must have thought it merited a different colour of card.

Celtic fans, players and some in the media have suggested that the SFA should look at this challenge plus the punishment and decide on rescinding Scott Brown’s red card, the Celtic captain received his marching orders a week beforehand against Ross County.

Now I think Scott Brown is without doubt the best Scottish midfielder playing in Scotland’s top flight and has been for at least the past five years (probably longer). He showed all of his qualities in that win over Rangers as he dominated the midfield area.

But Brown’s tackle at Dingwall against Liam Boyce was worthy of a red card, it was a late lunge that could’ve injured his opponent.

Brown has a history of trying to dish out instant retribution if he feels something hasn’t gone his way or if a player leaves a foot in on him and the officials have missed. At times he goes in hard but fair but sometimes he crosses the line and against Boyce he mistimed the tackle and didn’t seem to be in full control, so for me it was a red card offence.

We can’t have a system that decides we can’t punish wrongdoers because others have done similar and escaped punishment. If we do that then we set at dangerous precedent and it will be hard for the SFA to punish any player as they will always say ‘but what about them?’.

That seems to be the argument that Patrick Roberts is going with and I understand why. Roberts was the player at the other end of Halliday’s poor, rash tackle and he knows that Scott Brown is a massive part of the Celtic machine.

Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers has also stated that the club have appealed the red card because of inconsistencies:

“We have the same referee who made the yellow card decision against Kieran Tierney, so with the consistency with the decision making that’s why we are appealing it.”

Again I understand Brendan’s frustration with referees and their lack of consistency. His job is based on results and bad calls from the officials can cost his team points.

But instead of trying to use these inconsistencies to your own advantage, I think we need to do more to help referees and try and limit their mistakes.

In that regard instead of rescinding Brown’s red card because Willie Collum missed the seriousness of the Halliday challenge, the SFA should have the power to upgrade Andy’s yellow to a red and have him serve a suspension. We can use retrospective action to deal with diving and the like, so why can’t we use it for calls that refs clearly get wrong?

I’d also like the SFA to look into bringing in instant video assistants, who can help the officiating team on match days. The technology is now at a stage where they can reach these decisions in no time at all.

In summing up I suppose the old adage ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ springs to mind.

So Scott Brown should lose his appeal and serve his punishment. But we should demand more from those running Scottish football and have them back their referees with more technology to help them limit their mistakes.

At the very least we should have a governing body that can rectify those mistakes when they happen!

The FM17 Cup In Glasgow

Last week I filmed the BetBright FM17 Cup for the set pieces.

It was a great event and an enjoyable evening.

Checkout more about the FM17 Cup on the FM Project’s Facebook page.

 

Will Real’s Sergio Ramos Ever Learn?

You can’t deny that Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is a world class talent. He’s a tremendous centre-back, he can score valuable goals and he has an endless amount of passion coursing through his veins.

The thirty-one year old has also managed to win pretty much every major trophy there is out there worth winning.

But unfortunately for Ramos, and his teammates, the defender also possesses that rash side of his game that often sees him getting into trouble. It’s almost as if the Spanish international has a self destruct button in the back of his head and it’s constantly telling him to press it!

The all too familiar sight of seeing Ramos receive a red card for a stupid, needless challenge happened again last night as Real lost to their bitter rivals FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabéu. The result saw Barca climb above Madrid into La Liga’s top spot.

In the seventy-seventh minute, just four minutes after Barca took the lead, Ramos lunged in on Lionel Messi with a dangerous two footed challenge. Thankfully Messi had enough presence of mind to dodge most of the impact but the referee had noted that Sergio was out of control and so sent the defender off.

Ramos would the bitch and moan about the decision and he’d have a pop at Gerard Pique on the way off too but in reality he’d given his side an up hill task.

To be fair to Los Blancos, they managed to get back into the game through a fine goal from James Rodriguez.

Ultimately though, Ramos’ sending off came back to haunt Real.

In the dying moments of the game as both teams craved a winner, Sergio Roberto charged forward into Madrid’s half. The right back then played it to Andre Gomes, who in turn waited before releasing Jordi Alba of the left. The wing back then ventured into Real’s penalty area before cutting the ball back to Messi and the Argentine struck a superb last gasp winner.

During that goal, you could see that Real’s defence were all at sea. They were a man down and were clearly missing their captain. I’m not saying their number four would have definitely stopped that goal from happening but he’d have certainly been more of a help on the field rather than in the changing room!

Again Sergio Ramos isn’t a naive youngster, nor was this his first El Clásico. He is now a veteran and he should be able to control his emotions. His sending off was because of poor judgement and his temper getting the better of him.

If I were Real Madrid’s boss Zinedine Zidane, I’d have given Ramos one hell of a bollocking after the game. I’m doubtful he did, especially when you consider Zizou retired after head butting Marco Materazzi during a World Cup final.

But in all honesty surely someone has to have a word with Ramos and explain to him that he needs to react better to bad situations. Last night saw him receive his twenty-second dismissal and that’s just during his stint at Real Madrid. That is an absolutely dreadful record for any player to have.

Five of those red cards have come against Barcelona, just when his team needs him the most.

As I’ve said before, Sergio Ramos is a wonderfully talented central defender, one of the best of his generation in fact. But he’s seriously no good to his teammates if he’s in having an early bath or missing important games through suspension.

I’d like to think he could learn from these mistakes but history seems to prove that he’ll always be a hot-head and ultimately a liability!

Man United’s Anthony Martial Needs More Magical Performances This Season

This week saw talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic succumb to a knee ligament injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the season.

We also saw Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho come out this week and tell forward Anthony Martial that he has to show signs of improvement if he’s going to succeed at Old Trafford:

“Do I think Anthony is a player with great potential? Yes I think. Do I think he can play successfully for me? Yes I think. But he needs to give me things I like very much.”

But on Sunday afternoon, twenty-one year old Martial put on a man of the match performance that helped his side collect three points at Turf Moore.

The Frenchman didn’t just score one and assist in another but he also made intelligent runs, showed good work ethic and his pace troubled the opposition right from the start.

Anthony’s outing against Sean Dyche’s Burnley showed Jose that he’s capable of being a disciplined, yet productive forward. It also allayed most fears that United would crumble up-top without Zlatan leading the line.

Martial and his pace offer United a different route to the direct style Ibra offered and towards the end of the season as teams look more tired and make more mistakes, electric speed can kill teams!

Many were believing that Man Utd were becoming too reliant on Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now the whole squad has to step up and show that that isn’t actually the case.

Pressure will ultimately fall onto the shoulders of Martial and fellow young hitman Marcus Rashford as the Old Trafford side search for goals in their pursuit of a top four finish in the Premier League and a shot at Europa League glory!

Rashford’s performances in recent months have shown a maturity beyond his years and he works hard for the team and is willing to play wide, these are attributes that Mourinho loves in his frontmen.

Now Anthony Martial needs to learn from Rashford and do the same. As I’ve already stated he made a good impression against Burnley this weekend but he needs to do the same and probably more against Manchester City on Thursday night.

Then he will need to do it again against Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final tie.

Earlier in the campaign Anthony Martial was moaning that he didn’t play enough and when he did play he was forced out on wing.

Now the French internationalist has the chance to shine up-front for the Red Devils. He has to seize this opportunity and grab the goals that could send Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United into next seasons Champions League!

Spurs Have Super Son To Thank For Closing The Gap On Chelsea

Ok the title is maybe a bit of an exaggeration as Tottenham Hotspur have a finely tuned squad and an extremely talented manager, so their current league position isn’t simply down to one player.

They possess one of the best goalkeepers in the world, a formidable defensive unit, a balanced midfield and a hot-shot goalscorer in Harry Kane.

But when Kane limped off during his sides FA Cup tie against Millwall on March the twelfth, many speculated that Spurs title challenge would fast disappear also.

At that time they were ten points behind Chelsea and were now missing their main goalscorer. Summer signing Vincent Jansen had come in and failed to impress this term, so could anyone come in and take on Kane’s load?

Well it turns out South Korean international Son Heung-Min was the man to step up and take on the added responsibility.

In the cup game against Millwall, Son would blank out any racist chants from the away support and bag himself a hat-trick. The forward would then also score five more in his next five Premier League outings.

Incidentally Tottenham won all five league fixtures, while Chelsea lost twice, meaning Spurs are now just four points behind the league leaders.

The title challenge is now on and Tottenham are once again contenders. That means the bookies will be taking more money in the upcoming weeks as things get tense. You can get enhanced odds on Premier League fixtures involving title challengers.

Son Heung-Min deserves a lot of credit for helping his side to close the gap at the top and making the next month an interesting one.

Before his five goal streak in his last five games, Heung-Min had only six league goals to his name. But his recent scoring run couldn’t have came at a better time as it meant that Mauricio Pochettino’s men didn’t miss Kane too much.

Now the England hit-man has returned to the starting line-up and Son is banging them in from the left, Spurs have that winning feeling and they could charge on to the league title if Chelsea drop points in two or more games.

It’s far from plain sailing for Tottenham as they head into the home-straight. They have to welcome Manchester United and Arsenal, while they also have to go to London rivals Crystal Palace and West Han United.

Many have questioned their spirit when it comes to the crunch. But Spurs have shown us recently that they are up for the fight and have the squad to run Chelsea close!

Three Players Celtic Could lose In The Summer

Celtic are having a great season. The Bhoys have already won the Scottish Premiership and the Scottish League Cup, and could clinch the Scottish Cup as well. The Glasgow giants also featured in the group stage of the Champions League this season and didn’t lose to Manchester City either at home or away.

Under Brendan Rodgers, who was appointed the Celtic manager in the summer of 2016, the Hoops have reached a whole new level. The football that the team have played has been superb, and a number of players have raised their game. With Celtic’s odds of winning the Scottish Cup just 4/9, it may still be worth taking advantage of bookmakers’ offers, such as those compiled by comparison sites including Latest Betting Sites, and placing a bet on the Bhoys ending up with the domestic treble this campaign.

Celtic are one of the biggest clubs in the world and have a strong following, but financially they cannot compete with teams in England. Over the past few years, the Glasgow giants have sold some of their best players, such as Victor Wanyama and Virgil van Dijk, and Premier League clubs could come again in the summer. Below we look at three players Celtic are in danger of losing at the end of the season.

Moussa Dembele

Moussa Dembele, who joined Celtic in the summer of 2016 for just £500,000, is one of the best young players in Europe. The Frenchman has dislodged Leigh Griffiths as the Bhoys’ first choice striker and has scored 32 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions so far this season.

Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have all been linked with Dembele, who could be tempted to play in the Premier League. Celtic could feature in the Champions League next season and that could affect Dembele’s decision, but would the youngster be able to resist if Jose Mourinho or Jurgen Klopp came calling? Would Celtic be willing to turn down a £40 million offer for the youngster?

Kieran Tierney

Kieran Tierney is one of the best young left-backs currently playing in Europe and looks to have a bright future ahead of him. The 19-year-old has already established himself as a key figure in Rodgers’s team and has also played three times for the Scotland national football team. Arsenal and Liverpool could do with a left-back, and Tierney would be a good addition to their respective squad. The youngster, though, would be wise to remain at Celtic Park for one more season at least and get more top-flight experience before making the move to England.

Jozo Simunovic

Jozo Simunovic came close to leaving Celtic in the summer of 2016, but the Celtic Park faithful will be glad that he stayed. The 22-year-old centre-back has been one of the best players for the club this season and has proved himself in Scotland.

The Croatia Under-21 international is very talented and has a lot of potential, and he would be a good signing for a club aiming to win promotion from the Championship in England next season. While the youngster should be looking to build on his encouraging performances this season, if a club in England offered him a good salary and the chance to progress, then it could be hard for Celtic to keep hold of him.

If Arsenal Sell Alexis Sanchez Then It Should Be To A Foreign Side

As Arsenal’s season continues to implode, it looks increasingly likely that Alexis Sanchez will hold firm and not sign a new deal with the club.

The Chilean’s contract will enter into it’s final twelve months this summer and I’d be amazed if Arsenal decide to watch him run it down and leave on a free in 2018.

So that could see a host of clubs interested in his signature when the transfer window reopens.

According to some reports the main suitor for Alexis could come from the Etihad, with Manchester City linked with a £50m bid.

Fellow English Premier League sides Chelsea and Manchester United have also been credited with a strong interest in the vibrant attacker.

But if the Gunners do decide to offload their star forward then they need to try and offload him to a foreign side and not to a rival in the Premier League.

They’ve been down that road before and watched as the likes of Kolo Toure, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy won trophies at City, while Robin van Persie helped Man United to a league title in 2013.

Arsenal don’t need the money and can ill afford to get on the wrong-side of their own fans by selling another top talent to the rest of the title challengers.

They will also know that other big sides on the continent will have their eyes on Alexis Sanchez this summer, if he becomes available.

French side PSG will no doubt have an interest in the Chilean forward. The Parisians are always on the lookout for world-class talents, especially ones from the Premier League. His attributes and ability to play in various positions will also attract the Qatari owned club. They’re also a side that can match any big offer from an English side.

Paulo Dybala’s brace against Barcelona only intensifies the speculation linking him with a move away from Italian champs Juventus. If the Argentine does leave Turin in the summer, then Juve will have plenty of cash and space in the team for a superb forward like Sanchez. The Chilean international made his name in Serie A with Udinese and a return to Italy could be on the cards.

You also have German giants Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga cracks maybe looking for more creative firepower with Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery both ageing. A move for Sanchez could see him link up with Chilean compatriot Artur Vidal and join a club that challenge for every trophy.

Now obviously Alexis has a say in all this. The speedy frontman might fancy staying in England and maybe he wants to work under Pep Guardiola again.

But for the Gunners they need to start thinking about themselves and becoming legitimate title contenders again. So on that basis they need to enter the next transfer window with the view of only selling Sanchez to a European side.

So give Alexis Sanchez the only option of leaving the Emirates is to a club outside of England and let him sweat.

Six Factors That Meant Celtic Ran-Away With A Sixth Scottish Title In A Row

It’s been a long time coming but Celtic were once again confirmed as the Scottish Premiership champions earlier in the month. It means that the Glasgow giants have now won six top-flight league titles in a row.

So I thought I’d look at six key factors that have helped Celtic in becoming an almost unstoppable force within the Scottish game.

NEW MANAGER/NEW FOCUS

You can’t take away Ronny Deila’s two league triumphs but you often got the sense that Celtic were in cruise control under the Norwegian coach, at times it even seemed as though Celtic were trying to gift Aberdeen a chance at taking the league title.

Under Deila, a lot of the squad seemed to lose their way and didn’t have the hunger to really dominate the league.

That all changed when Brendan Rodgers walked in the front door at Celtic Park last summer. The former Liverpool boss, unlike Deila, didn’t seem daunted by the club’s size and actually relished the opportunity to take the team forward.

Rodgers gives Celtic a figurehead and a boss that demands success. He’s also gained the respect from his players and managed to get them to produce much better performances and to do so week in and week out. The players no longer go through the paces for their gaffer, they now go through walls to impress the boss.

Sometimes he’s a bit too enthusiastic when talking about his players and their performances, the Barca 7-0 thumping springs to mind but you have to remember that he’s doing that to get more from his players and it’s worked.

Just look at his domestic successes with the club; they’ve already secured the Premiership trophy and the League Cup, they are still on course for a domestic treble as they are still in the Scottish Cup and they have yet to lose a game to a fellow Scottish side.

His recent new four year deal shows that he sees a future at Parkhead and I imagine that future will see some big business in the transfer market, more trophies and prolonged adventures in Europe.

WINNING MENTALITY

As I’ve already mentioned, Celtic are still to taste defeat against Scottish opposition.

They’ve gone unbeaten in their thirty-two league encounters, winning twenty-nine of them and just drawing three. They secured the League Cup in late November and are into the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup.

The squad have obviously developed a never die attitude and even in games that they’ve looked off pace (not often) they’ve managed to find goals to secure a win or a draw at the very least. It’s extremely impressive, especially when you factor in the fact that they have led the title race for so long and by so many points. Many a team in those circumstances allows themselves an off day or loses focus but not this side, they seem determined to grab themselves a famous treble without losing a domestic fixture all season.

GOALS GOALS GOALS

Celtic have certainly impressed going forward this season.

New recruits Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele hit the ground running and have both scored plenty of goals. Sinclair has bagged himself twenty league strikes so far and that’s enough to see him leading the Premiership’s scoring charts. Meanwhile young French hotshot Dembele has a seventeen goal league return, which includes a hat-trick against Old Firm foes Rangers.

The goals haven’t just came from the frontmen either. Midfielder Stuart Armstrong has helped himself to thirteen league goals, while James Forrest and Tom Rogic have found the net six times apiece.

In their opening thirty-two Premiership games, the Hoops have scored a whopping 85 times!

That’s twenty-four more than their nearest rivals Aberdeen. Brendan’s squad haven’t failed to score in any of their domestic fixtures so far in this campaign.

Celtic possess a slick passing side, with plenty of pace and a killer instinct.

A SCOTTISH CORE

Celtic have finally managed to incorporate a solid group of Scottish players that start most matches and that’s a good thing not just for the local fanbase but also for the Scottish national team.

Club captain Scott Brown has been fantastic since the start of the season and seems to relish playing for Rodgers. Brown often looked sluggish and jaded under Deila but he’s now once again bossing midfield battles and a real leader on the park that seems to get more from his teammates.

As I’ve already stated, Stuart Armstrong is playing regularly now and scoring plenty of valuable goals. His fine form has seen him win a place in Gordon Strachan’s national team and he has just won the league’s player of the month for March.

Winger James Forrest has once again looked like a top player under Rodgers. He was another one who seemed to have lost his way under Deila but he’s stayed clear of injuries this term, scored some goals and been consistently better!

After a bit of a ropey start to the season, it seemed as though Craig Gordon’s future at Parkhead was fast becoming uncertain. But the Scot soon regained his place between the sticks and has once again proved himself to be a top-class goalkeeper. His string of superb displays saw him linked with a move to Premier League supremos Chelsea but Brendan Rodgers swiftly turned down the English sides approaches and tied Gordon down to a new long-term deal.

Then you have left-back Kieran Tierney. The international teen must be one of Europe’s brightest prospects. He continually puts in stunning performances and seems to get better with every minute he plays. No matter the challenge, Tierney seems intent on meeting it head on and proving his worth for the team.

INCONSISTENT OPPONENTS

While we can applaud Celtic for all the good that they’ve done this term, we cannot overlook the fact that their rivals haven’t been good enough or consistent enough this season.

Much was made of Rangers coming into Scotland’s top flight once again, but they have since struggled to lay down any marker worth noting. They sacked or accepted the resignation of boss Mark Warburton in February. During his tenure at the club’s helm Warburton struggled against rivals away from Ibrox and that poor run only worsened in the top tier of Scottish football. Defensively they always looked too fragile to sustain a proper challenge on the title.

Hearts also changed their boss during the season and have struggled to cope with the various personnel changes that happened over the winter period. They look like a squad in transition and they like Rangers will need to forget this season and work towards more consistency.

Aberdeen have been the best of the rest. Winning twenty out of their thirty-two matches has been impressive but losing eight has cost them too many points and they were out of the title picture far too early in my opinion. Derek McInnes has at least got continuity on his side and their squad looks strong compared to most in Scotland. The Dons won all of their games in March but they need longer winning spells and to start a seas0n off with a bang, if they truly want to become title contenders.

SQUAD DEPTH

I wanted to end it with a Celtic positive.

The Parkhead club have by far and away the best squad in the country, no matter what Pedro Caixinha says or thinks.

When you look around it’s hard to see what player from any other Scottish team walks straight into this Celtic side.

Rodgers has changed his defensive partnerships a lot this season and no matter what duo play, they usually come away with the win. Some will say that the centre of defence is Celtic’s weakest area, yet they’ve only conceded twenty times in the league this term!

There seems to be adequate replacements that can come in and play well whenever called upon. That speaks volumes for Rodgers, his coaching staff and for the recruitment team at Celtic Park.

If these key factors remain the same for the foreseeable future then ten in a row is a distinct possibility for this group of Celtic stars!